Health Benefits Of Pet Therapy

Posted by: Kate Schneider, Reflections Programming Specialist

Pet Assisted Therapy is one avenue used in recreation or activities to bring about positive outcomes. Various types of animals are used to promote the health and happiness of an individual.

According to an article in the International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, a study done by Joanne Roth proved that there are indeed numerous benefits. Emotionally, people are inclined to be more at ease when an animal is present. With the introduction of pet assisted therapy, we can facilitate an environment where a person can feel more comfortable and relaxed in their surroundings.

Studies done at the University Of Missouri College Of Veterinary Medicine show that the interaction between humans and animals can increase a person’s level of the hormone oxytocin: a hormone that allows one to feel happy and trusting, assisting in the bonding between the animal and the human.

Studies have also shown that Pet Therapy provides the following benefits:

* Lowers blood pressure

* Boosts the immune system

* Increases verbal and/or nonverbal communication through positive interaction with the animal

* Provides a purposeful activity

* Decreases feelings of anxiety

* Decreases the show of emotional and physical pain

* Decreases boredom

* Increases positive behavior

* Provides an additional avenue for love, attention and happiness

* Increases use of fine and gross motor coordination if/when walking or grooming the animal

* Opportunities to reminisce

* Opportunities to laugh and simply enjoy the antics of the animal

If owning a pet at this time is not for you, there are many other ways you can enjoy the benefits of this type of therapy.

Dogs and Cats: Research shows that the actual petting of the animal provides physical and emotional benefits. Pet Assisted Therapy is a welcome addition to therapies used in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. If you don’t own a pet, visit with a friend who owns an appropriate pet or visit a local pet store. The puppies and kittens are sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face!

Birds: Domesticated birds at home can provide companionship and the therapeutic values are numerous. If you don’t own a bird, consider taking advantage of what nature offers. Draw the wild birds closer by providing a birdbath, birdhouses and feeders. By placing these items close to a window you can enjoy the antics of the animals thus providing hours of therapeutic enjoyment.

Horses: Equine therapy has proven to bring both physical and emotional benefits to its participants. HorseAbility has a wonderful program that The Brsital residents enjoy.

Fish:  A fish tank provides a feeling of serenity as one takes the time to sit, observe and contemplate the beauty of color and the movement and of the fish.

As caregivers, we are always looking for ways to help our loved ones. This is a therapy that will benefit you both! Recognizing our pets as a therapy is an avenue toward health and happiness! Enjoy!

Posted by:

Kate Schneider graduated from St. Joseph’s College of New York with a Bachelor’s Degree and holds a Master’s of Science Degree from Stony Brook University of New York in Health Care Policy and Management. Kate has a certificate in Gerontology and is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She has extensive experience working with people living with dementia in the Day Care setting, Long Term Care and the Assisted Living field for over fifteen years. Currently, Kate has the pleasure of working with a very talented team as they work towards bring an interesting, fun filled, and therapeutic program to the people who reside in the Reflections Dementia Care Program at The Bristal.